At this moment, excited eleven-year-olds would be poring over racks of newly purchased spell-books, unaware that they would never see Hogwarts [and] never see their families again. – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Harry is absent from his seventh year of education. But during the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, school grinds on. Dumbledore is dead. Harry is on the run. The sadistic Carrow siblings oversee a syllabus that includes torture and beatings. Severus Snape – yes, Dumbledore’s killer – is headmaster. No more happy magic: Hogwarts is the school of Dolores Umbridge’s dreams.
When the Golden Trio (Harry, Ron and Hermione) invade the Ministry we taste the political climate – notably, the persecution of Muggleborns. How is this felt at Hogwarts? Are students put on trial or simply disappeared? Attendance is now mandatory and any Muggleborns who do not present themselves for interrogation are reported to the Snatchers.
Professor Snape’s dark wizard credentials win his promotion. Secretly, he stays to protect the children; he gave Dumbledore his word. But Snape’s scope is limited. He has lost the trust of the Dumbledore loyalists. He cannot swing by an Order of the Phoenix meeting and ask them to hide some children. He cannot act openly. Preoccupied with Dumbledore’s plan to destroy Voldemort, the new headmaster lurks in his office. Umbridge was locked out of the circular, tower-top room during her brief time as chief educator. Snape makes Dumbledore’s hallowed quarters his sanctuary, and communes with the portraits of headmasters past. Strangely, Snape is unmolested by the faculty. “McGonagall and Flitwick and Sprout [and Slughorn and Firenze] all know the truth, they know how Dumbledore died. They won’t accept Snape as headmaster,” opines Hermione. But the teachers continue passively in their roles, for the wellbeing of the students. What does Professor Binns make of this living history? Where does the Squib caretaker Argus Filch stand in the new order? And what of Hagrid? The groundskeeper gives Dudley Dursley a pig’s tail because his father insults Dumbledore. Hagrid pins Igor Karkaroff to a tree because the Durmstrang headmaster badmouths Albus. Yet somehow the half-giant works with Dumbledore’s “murderer” for six months.
“To the well-organised mind, death is but the next great adventure,” said Dumbledore in Book One. Dumbledore alone can restrain Hagrid. Letters to the staff? That’s Dumbledore’s method. Leave behind notes: “In the event of my death… I want no inquiries made. I want no acts of vengeance… Sit tight until Harry calls.”
The Silver Trio
Neville Longbottom, Ginevra Weasley and Luna Lovegood – the Silver Trio – attempt to steal the Sword of Gryffindor from the headmaster’s office. Dumbledore left it to Harry, not to Snape. But they are caught red-handed. If only they had the Marauder’s Map.
To curtail the Dumbledore’s Army renaissance, Snape reinstates Umbridge’s Educational Decree Number Twenty Four. No meetings of three or more students. In Book Two, Ginny terrorised the school with graffiti: “Enemies of the heir, beware!” The Silver Trio revive the tactic. They sneak into the corridors at night and daub the walls with slogans such as “Dumbledore’s Army, Still Recruiting.”
The Daily Prophet is the mouthpiece for Voldemort’s policies. Xenophilius Lovegood’s “lunatic rag” The Quibbler becomes the voice of resistance. Until Christmas, when Luna is abducted. Awkwardly, Luna is imprisoned at Draco Malfoy’s manor house. Draco still goes to the school and he’s got a sixth year student chained up in his basement. Jeez dude, get a girlfriend.
Snape, meanwhile, has the genuine sword of Gryffindor. He has good intentions for the treasure and no student will interfere. For punishment he bans the Silver Trio from Hogsmeade (which keeps them safe from vengeful Death Eaters) and sends them to mild-mannered Rubeus Hagrid for a walk in the woods. This is somewhat better than the Muggleborns’ fate. Ginny’s ex-boyfriend Dean Thomas has to go camping with a goblin.
Phineas Nigellus Black, the late headmaster whose Grimmauld Place portrait is stowed in Hermione’s beaded bag, acts as conduit between the Golden Trio and Severus Snape. When the portrait overhears the Golden Trio’s location he tips off Snape who nips out with the sword, drops the Horcrux-destroyer in a frozen pond, and lures Harry with his doe Patronus. Does the isolated Snape figure out the Horcrux hunt? Hermione stole Dumbledore’s restricted books but Severus is a clever wizard. Either way, he shows Dumbledore great loyalty – just as Harry did in Book Two when Fawkes the Phoenix saved him from a snake bite.
The Dastardly Duo
“The other teachers are all supposed to refer us to the Carrows if we do anything wrong. They don’t, though, if they can avoid it. You can tell they all hate them as much as we do. Amycus, the bloke, he teaches what used to be Defence Against the Dark Arts, except now it’s just the Dark Arts. We’re supposed to practise the Cruciatus Curse on people who’ve earned detentions.” – Neville Longbottom, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Alecto Carrow and her brother Amycus are up the Astronomy Tower in Book Six when Dumbledore dies. They are not the sharpest tools. Alecto teaches Muggle Studies, which is compulsory in the new regime. The syllabus contains anti-Muggle propaganda of the kind Harry discovers at the Ministry: “MUDBLOODS and The Dangers They Pose to a Peaceful Pure-Blood Society,” as the pamphlet reads. Neville says Alecto makes Umbridge look tame. The volatile Amycus teaches Dark Arts. His syllabus includes the Killing Curse and Fiendfyre. The Carrows are in charge of discipline and Dumbledore’s Army feels their wrath. Michael Corner liberates a chained-up first year and wins himself some torture. Terry Boot trumpets the Golden Trio’s Gringotts bank robbery and gets beaten up.
In March, Hagrid and half-brother Grawp relocate to a cave after tempting arrest at Hogwarts with a “Support Harry Potter” party. Rock cakes all round! The Death Eaters figure out that Ron is not laid up in The Burrow with spattergoit but a full-time member of Team Potter. Ginny takes advantage of the Easter holidays to skip school. The Weasley family goes into hiding.
The Carrows identify Neville as Hogwarts’ guerrilla ringleader. Death Eaters attack his grandmother. She attacks back. Augusta Longbottom failed her Charms O.W.L. but the old lady is formidable. Neville, facing death or Azkaban, goes underground.
Yippee Ki-yay Magic-flicker
Chased by the Carrows, Neville ducks into the Room of Requirement, which becomes his base of operations. For a brief time, he alone is the fly in the ointment. Neville’s one-man terrorism is exactly the kind of sneaking-around-at-night behaviour that his 11-year-old self tried to prevent in Book One. We now imagine him like Bruce Willis in Die Hard, crawling through Hogwarts’ equivalent of air vents and elevator shafts. The bloodied Neville is a wizard John McClane!
Soon, the other rebellious students follow. Including Lavender Brown who, being a girl, demands a bathroom. The Room of Requirement auto-decorates in House banners, three out of four. Neville instinctively understands this magical room and creates a fortress. Good job, the place is no secret. Umbridge and the Inquisitorial Squad hit the Room two books earlier. The exuberant Crabbe and Goyle spent much of the previous year guarding the entrance for Draco. Fortunately the school is united against the Carrows except for a few bad Slytherins. Of course, the Carrows have been in the Room. They entered the school en route to Dumbledore’s murder via the vanishing cabinet in the Room of Requirement. If they remember.
Dumbledore’s Army needs food. And there’s no Dobby to organise the House-elves. Happily, a tunnel opens up between the Room and the Hog’s Head. The portrait of Ariana Dumbledore is the primary means of communication between pub and rebels. Ariana summons Neville when the Golden Trio turn up. And the Battle begins.
Later, Jo Rowling said that Neville marries Hannah Abbott. Does he hook up with the Hufflepuff prefect in these final months, in this co-ed dorm with no teachers or magical boundaries? Hannah’s mother is killed by Death Eaters and Neville can empathise. He knows life without parents. “Abbott, Hannah” was the first person our heroes saw sorted by the Sorting Hat on their first day at Hogwarts. They’ve all come a long way.
The Strange Odyssey of Dean Thomas
Dean Thomas is a Gryffindor in Harry’s year. Hammers fan, best mate of Seamus Finnegan, artist, forger, raised by a single Muggle mother, boyfriend of Ginny, Quidditch team substitute… He has a mad, tragic adventure in the timeline of Deathly Hallows: wanted man, Goblin friend, wandless wizard, Luna’s shadow, Hogwarts soldier, probably dead.
Dean is one of the Muggleborns forced to flee from Ministry persecution. In fact, Dean’s dad was a wizard but Dean never knew him: Rowling said his father was killed after refusing to join the Death Eaters. In Book Seven, Dean meets fellow outlaw Ted Tonks (Lupin’s father-in-law) and a few days later they link up with ex-Ministry man Dirk Cresswell and two goblins, Griphook and Garnuk. The group pass a night in the same random woods as Harry, Ron and Hermione, who listen in on the conversation.
Ted, Dirk and Garnuk are killed around Christmas and now Dean and Griphook are on the lam together. This odd couple are captured months later by the werewolf Greyback’s gang of Snatchers. Shortly afterwards, the same Snatchers nab Harry, Ron and Hermione. Everyone goes to Malfoy Manor. Dobby arrives. Everyone escapes to Shell Cottage.
Dean becomes a minder/sidekick for Luna Lovegood and silently suffers her musings on Crumple-Horned Snorkacks. The Trio and Griphook leave for Gringotts without saying goodbye. But later that evening Dean and Luna arrive at wizard school, where Harry’s return kicks off the Battle of Hogwarts. Dean is glimpsed in the heat of battle, and he has managed to win a wand (his was taken by the Snatchers). He stuns a Death Eater and we hear no more.
Other characters had their parts reduced but remain compelling. McGonagall has a back story (including a doomed love affair) that was dropped from the books. But the Transfiguration Professor’s personality flourishes in unexpected moments, such as when she duels Snape or marshals the galloping desks. Lavender Brown, Ron’s ex-girlfriend, has a lively background role. Alas, a tragic twist, her sweet romantic soul is defiled by Greyback. Dean’s story is disjointed and he deserves a proper pay-off. With a little spotlight he could be as beloved as Fred and George, as Luna, as Neville. Instead, Dean dies the little-known soldier.